Concerns raised over potential hike in Flintshire housing rents

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

A COUNTY is venting its opposition to significant rises in housing rents.


Members of Flintshire Council’s housing overview and scrutiny committee have voiced their concerns at the potential impact on residents if a proposed increase by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) of more than six per cent in housing rents is imposed in 2011-12.


Senior council officials have written to WAG voicing their opposition to the proposals in the hope changes can be implemented after news of the potential rent increase became public early last week.


The increase could impact on more than a third of Flintshire council tenants who do not receive housing benefit, with a three per cent council tax increase also being faced.


Cllr Bernie Attridge told the meeting he was disappointed at the proposed rates and fully supported the letter being sent to WAG from the council. He said: “I hope common sense prevails and the Assembly listens to the Welsh local government family as a whole.”


Cllr George Hardcastle described the rent issue as “sticking out like a sore thumb” in next year’s housing budget when council tax increases are also due to be imposed.


He said: “People are now facing paying £16 per month more. I fear this increase in the rent will have a knock-on effect on rent arrears.


“This will go up if the Welsh Assembly don’t listen to us.”


A Welsh Assembly spokesman said the deputy minister for housing and regeneration is currently considering consultation responses on the All Wales Guideline Rent proposals.


The matter was discussed as part of a presentation by Flintshire’s head of housing, Clare Budden, and other senior officers, on the county’s proposed housing budget for next year.


Ms Budden hailed the achievements of the department in the previous year, which have included performance improvements in areas such as repairs and empty home letting times and numbers, and providing new heating in almost 300 homes.


Although the council is currently having to make savings due to a financial deficit, there will be more than £10million in funding made available through the Housing Capital Programme for improvements.


Cllr Attridge described the increase in the programme funding as “fantastic news”, believing tenants will benefit with necessities such as new kitchens and heating in the process.


Ms Budden said the authority is looking at introducing an incentive scheme designed to reward tenants who consistently pay their rent on time and comply with tenancy agreements.


Cllr Peter Curtis said: “It is a shame we have to reward people because they pay on time, when that is what they are supposed to do.”

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